I've had some interesting responses to the blog I sent out on Monday. Today I'm going to include a note I sent to someone in reply to one of those responses. The questions this person asked and the comments they made are implied in my reply, I think. See what you think!
Reading what you wrote I wonder if there may be some confusion as to what the "work" is and how to do it. It is not my experience that spiritual practice itself is something heavy or deep in any kind of unpleasant way. The result of practice is that it connects me with the great mystery that people call "God", "Spirit", etc., and that is the lightest, softest, most expansive and most exquisite thing there is. It is that which I love above all other things, and which my whole life is oriented towards--not out of some heavy should or some noxious obligation, but because I adore the great mystery of our life upon this earth, and the tremendous Love that exists in the middle of all of it. If the spiritual work you are doing does not result in a joyful connection with Life/God/Spirit, at least sometimes, then something is amiss.
There's a confusion that I've seen happen many times, in myself and in others, that I want to outline for you. The confusion says that the work in practice is to focus all the time on conditioned mind, to ferret it out and see what it's up to, to work on our "issues", etc., and to fight with conditioned mind for control of experience all day long. That's not the point at all from my point of view, and it's a miserable way to go through life. Spiritual practice, at least in the way I do it, would have my attention on what is beautiful and good: on this glorious planet in all its aspects, on the sweet innocence of the people I meet, on the tender feelings in my heart and the amazing gift of awareness that fills my mind. Conditioned mind will arise to interfere, or course, and when it does I'm required to get out my toolbelt and take it apart until I see clearly once again and return my attention to what is truly here. There is certainly some effort in that, and it can be painful and difficult to be sure to work through stuck places, but it's a satisfying work, or at least it can be, because the end is a return to the beautiful and good. You have not said anything that suggests you are experiencing this confusion, but it's typical, and so I thought I'd offer it so you can try it on and see if it fits.
It is not my experience that life is easier when I am not aware. When I am not aware, everything in life becomes difficult. The reason of course is that conditioned mind takes over when I am not aware, and I become lost in fictions that are full of suffering and unhappiness of various kinds. When I am aware, life is easy and joyful. The trouble is that conditioned mind resists awareness, and it can be hard to maintain the courage and determination required to stand up to the tendency we all struggle with to leave the moment and suffer. This is what we have to do, however, if we're going to live in a way that is truly happy and fulfilled. And if I am aware while I wrestle with conditioned mind, then even that can be a joyful thing, despite the sometime pain of it. It's the sort of joy, I think, that people experience when they do extreme things. I heard a story recently about a guy who trekked solo to the south pole, pulling a huge sled of supplies behind him. Why would someone do something like that? He said it was it was difficult, painful, frustrating, and cold just about all the time! And yet, he said, it was the best experience of his life thus far. There is a joy in doing what we have set out to do, and this type of joy increases with the difficulty. Spiritual practice can be like that, too.
I wonder what you mean when you say that practice is "hard"? I wonder if you are doing something you don't need to do. And I wonder what would happen if you turned away from whatever conditioned issues you are focused on, and turned towards the beautiful and good instead. Your life will provide you plenty of opportunities to do the hard work of letting go of old patterns. No need to do that when it's not required.